FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq-As sweat dripped off the foreheads of a group of Soldiers running toward the finish line, sergeants-major, senior non-commissioned officers, and junior Soldiers alike yelled "Run faster!" and "Almost there!"

But the end of the run was just the beginning of a day-long competition for competitors, all of whom were vying for the titles of the Non-Commissioned Officer and Soldier of the Quarter on Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq, July 10.

Following the run, Soldiers entered a range and performed reactive fire, during which they were expected to fire weapons from different positions while walking.

"The reactive firing range was one of the most important events because it ensures that junior Soldiers and NCOs are able to correctly fire their weapons and engage potential enemies," said 1st Sgt. Artis Duncan, a Sherwood, Ark., native and the First Sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

The Soldiers were then split into groups and rotated through scenarios which tested their knowledge on automatic weapons, communications equipment, and casualty treatment and evacuation, all while subjected to the early morning Iraqi heat.

"The events today were kind of unexpected," said Cpl. Matthew Elam, a Tehachapi, Calif., native and a military police officer with the 2-18th MP Company, attached to the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd BCT. "Some stuff changed on me in the last moment, but you just got to kind of learn how to adapt."

The Soldiers were graded on their performance as they worked their way through the events.

Upon completing all the tasks, the Soldiers were given a break to prepare for what was probably the most nerve-wracking event of the day: the board.

During a board, Soldiers appear in front of senior NCOs and are asked an assortment of questions regarding common military functions, from basic rifle marksmanship, troop leading procedures, and first aid, to name a few.

"Appearing before a board and being able to handle yourself is important because it prepares these Soldiers and NCOs for future situations, and studying for it improves their war fighting skills," said Duncan.

Soldiers appeared before the board with their sponsors, who took notes and assessed how their Soldiers handled themselves.

"You can get a little nervous, but you have just got to put all of that out of your mind," said Elam.

Following the question and answer portion of the board, board members discussed their performance and calculated a score based on how well they did in the earlier events and how well they answered the board's questions.

But why did these participants subject themselves to such an intense day'

"I came to the board to accomplish a challenge for myself so that I can see where I stand within the Army standards and also to show my Soldiers that it can be done," said Elam, who was named Non-Commissioned Officer of the Quarter.

"By going to boards, I'm leading the Soldiers from the front and showing them what they should aspire to be doing," he continued.

Elam, who participated in three separate boards leading up to this one, was surprised by his victory.

"I am pretty surprised that I made it this far...I want to do better, I want to go even further," he said.

While studying for the board, Elam found that he had learned a lot about skills that were outside of what he might normally encounter as a Military Policeman.

"Studying for the board has taught me a lot about the Army and how it works," said Elam.

Pfc. James Shindo, a Warner Park, Calif., native and a petroleum supply specialist with 15th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT, who was named the Soldier of the Quarter, also found that lot of studying helped him win.

But more than that, he says that a Soldier should always "work hard, and follow your NCOs."

Elam and Shindo will later be competing for Soldier and NCO of the Brigade honors and will compete against the previous winners of the quarterly competitions. The winners of that competition will attend a Multi-National Division-North-wide competition where they will compete against Soldiers from other brigades.